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Friends Life launches direct-to-consumer financial planning service

Friends Life has rolled out a direct-to-consumer financial planning service offering advice to existing customers on how to manage their Friends Life policies.

PlanWise is a phone and web-based service which allows Friends Life customers to check valuations, view fund factsheets, check fund prices and switch funds. It launched in April with no publicity.

The website says that customers using PlanWise can access “professional financial advice” and promises “in-depth advice on your Friends Life plan and more.” It also includes the statement: “By registering for PlanWise, you will be replacing the current adviser to your Friends Life plan with PlanWise.”

Marketing director Jo Cann says the PlanWise service is for existing Friends customers who have lost access to their IFA or who no longer have a relationship with their IFA.

She says: “It is a service for our existing customers, it is not for new customers. We already know we have got some orphan customers so it was developed primarily with them in mind. There is an expectation that with the RDR there will be further customers who perhaps do not have access to advice, so we built the service with that in mind as well. We offer clients a financial review of their existing plan and we make it very clear that we can only talk to them about their existing Friends products.”

The service is also available to Friends’ existing direct customers.

Last week, Money Marketing reported that Friends had sent a mailing to a number of Woodcocks financial services manager Brian Ollerton’s clients and made follow-up phone calls about their relationship with their IFA.

Ollerton says: “I feel Friends is not being totally open with us about what it is doing. Normally, with this kind of service, there would be a fanfare around its launch. The fact that it has not publicised this service speaks volumes.”

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Comments

There are 26 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. Other companies allow access to policy information, fact sheets and some, fund switches, but by doing so do not remove the existing adviser. If access to the information means you lose your client, I for one will not be recommending Friends Life.

  2. Hmmm….and exactly how would they know that an IFA relationship does not exist? Write to them perhaps? Ask loaded qestions on their website? Either way it smacks of not being very honest.

  3. This seems like the thin edge of the wedge to me. IFS are gradually being left out of the loop. Perhaps there will be repercussions felt by the effects of RDR that some people within our industry failed to foresee.

    It would be a refreshing change to read a headline that made me positive about the future, unfortunately it feels like IFA’s are under attack from every direction.

    Perhaps the practices with ‘high net worth clients’ and many millions of pounds under management will benefit from RDR but days are numbered for most IFA businesses!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Networks not owned by FLI and all OFA,s should now stop placing business with them. This may make them realise that they just cannot poach clients. Their action must show how much they are suffering

  5. This would tend to fit in with their poor service standards offered currently to the IFA community.
    As a knock-on we are forced to offer slow response times to client questions. Next thing on the door mate a client receives an invite to deal direct and I would guess, with no surprise, a prompt improved response time. as a result the IFA will loose the servicing rights and also a further element of income.

    By removing the IFA from the equation the client will suffer the lose of true advice and at the same time weaken the IFA community again.

    This is just another example of RDR in motion with the general objective to reduce down real client advice and replace with a much watered down thinly spread multi- provider information This will result in no advise only information and each provider unashamedly selling their product with little regard for the client.

  6. I appear to have erased ny Friends life contact details, how careless!

  7. I wonder how many more will follow Friends move?

  8. No more business for them then.

  9. So Friends and the client collude to switch off the trail, with Friends accepting NO responsibility for suitability of the plan going forward and the IFA remaining liable to infinity because the longstop is ignored by the FOS!
    If trail is turned off, WHY should the IFA keep the file for anymore than 6 years from the date of loss of agency? Both Friends and the EX customer will have checked suitability and ADVISED on ongoing suitability and should pick up any flaws in suitability at that time.

    Comments welcome…

  10. Wouldn’t the better strategy be to contact all of your clients who have policies with Friend’s Life and make sure that they know who you are rather than wasting energy getting cross with FL!

  11. I agree with John Hutton here.

    It is clear that FP are targeting clients with no relationship with their former IFA – what’s wrong with that?

    If IFAs have a relationship, and are servicing their clients properly, they have nothing to fear.

    If anything, a call from Friend’s Prov will prompt the client to remember thier IFA, and therefore strengthen their link with them, not weaken it.

  12. Friends Life have their own TCF obligations to customers and this puts a tick in that box. I suspect the reason this was done under the radar was because they were expecting just the sort of reaction above. Most if not all life offices currently (or will do) this type of activity, are we to boycott them all (and still claim to be a Whole of Market IFA???).

    Only those advisers not in regular contact with their clients need worry, and if you aren’t having recent discussions with them you, surely aren’t taking any retainer/trail so they won’t be missed will they…

    Besides, providers just have to wait until after RDR and hoover up all the orphan clients produced when half the IFA market goes bust. Why bother stealing now when they’ll be gifted in just over 12 months?

  13. If the Eurozone banks start to fail it won’t matter anyway as we will all be bartering with chickens and turnips. No doubt someone will create a new regulatory body to ensure that we are Treating Chickens Fairly. If FL want thousands of grumpy endowment customers hassling them for a few quid a year good luck to them. I strongly suspect that most providers will switch off trail somehow or other post RDR anyway, so best to get used to this scenario.

  14. Peter Davies @ Create Wealth 22nd September 2011 at 5:40 pm

    Friends Life, owned by Resolution – that says it all

  15. The company that i am a co-director in is currently in the process of using Friends Life as our sole protection adviser for our 27 national IFAs.
    This is definately food for thought and we will now be spending a little more time on our final decision!!

  16. Life companies shall do IFAs no favours. Time to forget them and moved to an enviroment where you have total control over your future A Wrap provider with no life company link is a good starting point.

  17. I can see my next suitability report stating that I am not recommending Friends Life due to their poor customer service. I hope they lose a lot of business and I think any IFA recommending them must be mad.

  18. We gave up on AXA/Friends etc a long time ago. Resolution Life….means they resolve to pinch as much trail as possible. I wonder if the clients will be getting the money added to their investments etc? Stupid thought of course!!!

  19. I don’t think that some yet understand what the post RDR world will look like. Comments such as I won’t recommend FP for example show an out of date attitude. when the client is paying the adviser the provider is irrelevant. Let FP contact a well servied client and they will get nowehere. Only advisers who don’t look after their clients have anything to fear.

  20. It is OK everyone bleating about FL, however they are not only the customers of advisors but the customers of FL, therefore they basically can do what they like.

    The next few years with the pressure on margins and obtaining new business for life companies they will do anything to survive. FL, Aviva, Std Life and all others will go down this route as fewer and fewer advisors put business their way other than protection.

    In some respects they have brought about their own demise by allowing all and sundry in the past to sell business (building society tie ups etc) As advisors move more into holistic financial planning and wealth management, FL like many others has to get its business from somewhere. They can’t build a platform very successfully so where are they going to get mass market business from?

    As people have stated previously the secret is to keep your clients close and tell them to seek your honest opinion before doing anything with any of the companies whom they hold accounts, policies investments etc etc.

    Dare I say it perhaps this will focus IFAs attention on their clients and in some cases stop picking up commission for doing bugger all!

  21. If this was such a big issue for IFAs they would be voting with their feet and leaving Sesame Bankhall and stopping giving Friends any business. I suspect the rhetoric will be just that

  22. Green Eyed Monster 26th September 2011 at 10:36 am

    “PlanWise is a phone and web-based service which allows Friends Life customers to check valuations, view fund factsheets, check fund prices and switch funds”.
    Since when did this become a “Financial Planning Service”?
    Natalie – You should check with IFP for a definition of financial planning, and if Friends Life actually used the term in their release to you then you should ask Jo Cann to ask her husband what financial planning means!

  23. I’ve no axe to grind, but I do get hacked off by whingeing IFAs, who, if they had got their act together year’s ago wouldn’t feel the World is against them. The plain fact is that ownership of your own business proposition is paramount.

  24. Is it a case of policyholders finding out how lousy the performance is and then complaining?

  25. Friends life come under a heading to me me as (worth a watching). I have just printed of all client FP, Axa and Bupa plans and sending a we letter out to all clients. Top of list is FP investment business which has turned out to be ashocking mistake and one i hope to rectify immediately.

  26. If you keep in contact with your clients, you have nothing to worry about, if you don’t then you are going to lose your trail. Its a tough world out there!

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